ESL alumnus a part of relief efforts in Chad
Heavy rains have bombarded the African nation of Chad since mid-August. One of the areas most heavily hit is the region of Tandjile where the SCJs minister at St. Francis of Assisi parish. The parish’s substations in Baktchoro and Kolon have experienced some of the country’s worst flooding.
“Bishop Miguel Sebastian of the Diocese of Lai was one of the first people to visit the area,” wrote Fr. David Dagsou, SCJ, superior of the SCJ community in Baktchoro. “There, the bishop participated in the rescue of several women and children whom he put in his dugout canoe and got to shelter.”
As soon as the bishop returned to the diocesan offices he sent aid on behalf of Caritas to rescue the displaced. “With representatives from Caritas-BELACD, we bought cereal, tarpaulins and blankets,” wrote Fr. David. “The people were so grateful.”
“The damage to the area is extensive,” he continued. “There are 2,836 displaced people, 7,261 hectares (over 17 acres) of rice fields submerged, and the loss of goats, chicken and oxen.” Worst of all, six people drowned and another three have died of malaria.
“These figures are only for a very small area, the substation of Baktchoro,” he said.
“The government of Chad has provided some assistance,” wrote Fr. David. “Also, we have some funds from Caritas-BELACD… I have barely had a moment’s rest. Every day I go from one village to another by canoe to identify the needs of the victims.”
One of the challenges now is crops. Areas normally used for planting are still underwater in some places. Fr. David and the rest of the SCJ community are busy getting seeds and other items to help the people in their parish plant crops, starting over as best they can to feed their families.
“Please keep us in your prayers,” he concluded.
Two years in Chad
The Priests of the Sacred Heart have had a presence in Chad since 2010; there are currently three SCJs from Cameroon ministering in Tandjile. The congregation came to the country two years ago at the invitation of Bishop Miquel Sebastian, who learned that the SCJs had originally served in Chad from 1935-39.
When the SCJs arrived it had been many years since the remote area of Baktchoro, near Kelo, had a regular Church presence. “Some had forgotten how to celebrate the liturgy,” said Fr. David. “Many had to wait six months to a year to receive the Eucharist.
“The people with whom we work are so kind and open to learning new things,” he continued. “Our hope is to continue to grow the faith in this area. The parish is very large and the bishop would like us to divide it into two.” The SCJs hope to do this when they have more personnel.
Fr. David is an alumnus of Sacred Heart School of Theology’s ESL program. He and his fellow SCJs from Cameroon are young, and he admits that they are still maturing in their roles as parish priests. “Starting a new mission in an unfamiliar country is not easy for young priests like us,” he said, “But I find joy in many things here, especially the growing of the faith.”